Sat 19 December – Day 35
This morning I set off from Mel’s place at the decent time of 7:30am as I’m not sure what today entails in terms of duration and trail condition. I have previously read blogs that mention steep sidlings but to what extent I’m not familiar. On the way out of town I take a snap shot of the shearing statue then turn down the nondescript street where the trail commences on the Mangaokewa reserve. The reserve encompasses the stream of the same name which the river trail will follow alongside for 13 km. After a dubious start with overgrowth vegetation, the stream is bridged and the trail passes by remains of quarries which are on both sides and are impressive scars on the landscape. The track through the bush is so enjoyable. There are picturesque waterfalls and lots of tree cover. Kawakawa seems to like this environment as it is prolific and there are many enormous kawakawa plants that could almost be trees. I’m on the hunt for its ripe fruit. You look for the soft yellow cylindrical cone. Green ones are not ripe. But you have to be quick as the birds love them. I can’t really describe their taste exactly as its not like anything else; its soft and sweet initially and changes quickly to a umami flavour. I did manage to find a couple of yellow ones from the female plants. A swing bridge takes you into the reserve parking and camping area. I waved to the lone campervan guy but saw that some little huas had set fire to one of the park benches and there were broken bottles littering the ground. Later at camp the Frenchies said that some youth in 4wd vehicles had been partying and drifting until 2am. The reserve continues following the stream on a path between the tawa kahikatea and totara trees. For this first section it is easy walking and would make a lovely outing destination with the trees and stream beside. Upon reaching a set of stairs it quickly changes to the type of track we’re more familiar with on the TA. Think mud tree roots slippery grass gorse blackberry bushmans lawyer rocks stiles thistles and a track that goes up and down for no apparent reason. This was pretty much what the day was like. A “goat track” as Neil said when he arrived at camp this evening. I think we all got lost off trail today. The Frenchies Lucy and Baptiste had a big diversion and had to retrace to the last orange marker. Steve and I did the same mistake and followed a sheep track that sidled a steep bluff rather than climb up and over. This resulted in a steeper climb for both of us in order to rejoin the trail. There were many sidlings and ample opportunity to slip down or over. The hiking poles came in very handy today as extra limbs to steady and support. However with one slip I thought I had done something dreadful to my right achilles as it panged in pain. Fortunately by the evening with rest it feels better so perhaps it released tightness in my leg instead. I will find out tomorrow once I set off walking again.
It wasn’t all bad by any means. I’m enjoying the smell of the honeysuckle in the mornings as I did today. The virgin bush was magnificent especially after having been through so many regenerating forests and there were many opportunities to refill the water bottle from small streams or wee waterfalls that crossed the trail. I suppose some may have fed through the farmland above but many were fresh from the limestone hills above. It was a relief to cross a stile and see a sign indicating that the camp site was only 2.8km more to walk. This walk did include a long prickly corridor of gorse and negotiating a paddock of Angus steers but eventually I dragged my tired body into the campsite. It is provided by the generous farm owners for TA hikers and had a long drop, clothes line and a shelter for dining with fresh water. All for $5 which at the end of a long day is nothing. In regular times I wouldn’t be seen dead in such a site but today and for hikers it may as well be the Ritz. Steve is already here and set up. The Frenchies pull in about half an hour after me and Neil arrives around 6pm. That’s our contingent for tonight.